Sharon Jones was born in 1956 in James Brown’s hometown of Augusta, Georgia. Her first performances as a child singer were in her local church, where she was trained in gospel.
At home in her room growing up, she would imitate vocalists Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin and dancers like James Brown and the cast of Soul Train. Her family moved to Brooklyn when she was a teenager, where she fell for disco and funk in the 1970s.
In the 80s some of her music managers told Sharon Jones she was “too dark-skinned and short” to front a band. Most of her work in music had come as an uncredited studio back-up vocalist. She became frustrated and went back to singing in the church and took a job as a prison guard.
Sharon wouldn’t return to the music industry until 1996. And it wasn’t until her late 40s – in 2002 – that Sharon released a her first full-length record Dap-Dipping… with Brooklyn funk-soul rhythm machine the Dap-Kings. Together they started to pack crowds into clubs. The first really great song they dropped was on the next record Naturally. “How Long Do I Have To Wait for You”.
You can buy an MP3 of this song here.
When I interviewed Sharon Jones for the KEXP Documentary radio story I produced on her for the series The Heart of Soul she said she tries to stay humble. And that when she is onstage she leaves her mind behind and steps into the song. In 2007 this was most evident on the title track to their new record 100 Days 100 Nights. The song had not only the best groove, but also great advice.
“One hundred days, one hundred nights to know a man’s heart.
And a little more before he knows his own.”
You can get the MP3 for 100 Days, 100 Nights here.
2010’s I Learned The Hard Way sported a few amazing tracks, including the title song. The best track by far is “Better Things”.
You can get the MP3 for “Better Things” here.
Michele Myers is a Seattle club DJ and hosts a radio show Saturdays 3-6pm on KEXP 90.3FM in Seattle – kexp.org. She’s a music historian, has produced over 200 radio stories for KEXP Documentaries and written scripts and features for NPR, Experience Music Project and the University of Washington.